Friday 24 April 2020

Why Sleeping is Bad

Back on 18th April I discovered that a Barn Owl had shrieked into my nocmig kit during the early hours. I had absolutely no clue that Barn Owls lived anywhere nearby, and the species would not even have featured on a 'garden possibles' list. And yet there it was, loud as you like, plus another faint and distant shriek 48 seconds later. Since then my aim has been to hear one with my ears and therefore legitimately be able to count it on my garden list. The quest was on...

Last night one called at 23:23, while I was outside on a naked nocmig vigil. However, I didn't actually hear it. I was asleep. Unfortunately I am now familiar with the spectrogram trace produced by my snore, and its regular four-second repeat pattern. To be fair, the Barn Owl was evidently quite distant, and possibly I wouldn't have heard it anyway. In the end it didn't matter though, because the previous night at 22:36, I did hear a faint shriek. Just the one. 'Ooh! Surely that was a Barn Owl?' I thought, straining hard to hear another call...which never came. So yesterday morning I was eager to review the night's file. Sure enough, along with a bit of traffic noise, there was a now-familiar splurge at 2.0 kHz.

Just to be sure, I spliced it together with my previous Barn Owl calls (the loud one and the very faint one) and made this little composition...

And this is what it all sounds like...

I realise this may all smack of desperation, but do I care? These are strange times, and in such times you've got to do whatever you've got to do in order to squeeze new birds onto your #BWKM0 list. No shame in that. None.

The same night which gave me the garden-tick Barn Owl at 22:36 also produced this at 21:20...

Just one glance and you know this is going to sound great!

That is one super-cool spectrogram. Predictably, the real thing does not disappoint...

As I mentioned, this flew over at 21:20. In theory I was sitting outside at this point, all ears. In reality I may not have been. I have tried to remember if I'd maybe popped indoors to get a beer or make a cup of tea, or for some other inane and stupid reason, but cannot. Whatever the case, the fact remains that I did not hear that astonishing Curlew call. I cannot quite believe it, but there it is. By the way, that's another one which made me laugh out loud when I played it. I really hope the novelty doesn't wear off too quickly, because I am very much enjoying this bizarre new world.

Anyway, since then I have taken to keeping a running log of what I'm up to while naked nocmigging. Last night, for example: '21:59-22:04 indoors'. If I miss another belter I want to know why. The only thing I cannot log are my involuntary snoozing times...but I can just look for the snore pattern on the spectrogram later.

Finally, a comment on the Portland Bird Observatory website reminded me how our migrant Wheatears change a bit as spring advances, with the later birds (those generally destined for more northern climes like Iceland and Greenland) being a bit larger and more richly coloured. So I made a little collage of some of the Wheatears I have photographed so far this year, to see if anything was evident just yet. See what you think...

Personally I am undecided. Possibly one or two of the earlier birds are a bit of a colder grey on top and less peachy below, or perhaps it's all down to the light. Whatever, eight different Wheatears in a single image is a wonderful thing, and who cares what lame excuse gave rise to its birth?


  1. I have to concur. Seeing what you know is going to be something good on the spectrogram never fails to excite. And when they sound as good as they look, brilliant! Are you using an external microphone with your Zoom thingy, or just the Zoom as is?

    1. I decided I didn't want to leave the recorder out in the weather, so I'm using a cheap (£25) shotgun mic with it now, and the Zoom stays indoors. Works a treat.